Friday, December 2, 2011

Colorado / New Plate Watch: Mesa State College Becomes Colorado Mesa University, But Will the Plate Follow Suit?

During 2011, Mesa State College in Grand Junction completed an upgrade to "university" status and has since been renamed as Colorado Mesa University. This is a fine achievement, and worthy of celebration. However, it poses a problem - will the former college's Colorado license plate be redesigned to match?

Since the Maverick mascot and school colors have not changed, all I'd expect to see is an adjustment in the text along the bottom. And Colorado DoR has, in fact, adjusted the name they list the plate under on their website. But these are the things that keep me up at night...what will the state do? When will they do it? As always, I'll stay on top of it and let you know.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Colorado / Plate Decoder: Red Plates

Continuing on the theme from yesterday, we'll delve into more of Colorado's code-lettered plates with the "red" series. While these still use the same basic mountain background as the more common green plates, these red plates tend to be geared toward fleet and commercial registrations.

APP ATK / Apportioned Truck. Like most other states, Colorado issues Apportioned plates to vehicles (usually heavy trucks) participating in the International Registration Plan. The IRP is a reciprocal agreement that allows participating US states and Canadian provinces to issue plates for cargo trucks and transit buses that are valid across borders. Vehicles so registered pay just one state's registration fees, which are then spread on a proportional basis to all the participating jurisdictions. Older Colorado Apportioned issues actually used the word "Apportioned" on the plate like most such states; when the state redesigned its plates for the next millennium, only the letters for each individual type were used at first (ATK, ATL, ATR and PRM). This apparently did not sit well with someone (most likely out-of-state law enforcement agencies), as it wasn't long before little stickers reading "APP" were applied to the top of each of these types to indicate their status as Apportioned plates. Then a couple of years ago, the plates were reworked to include the "APP" lettering on the right side of the plate, making this Colorado's only set of plates (for a little while, anyway) with two sets of code letters. (Check out Jim Moini's excellent Apportioned Plates site for a few more images of actual plates with the "APP" sticker.) This plate is for a truck that does not pull a trailer, such as a large Ryder or U-Haul moving van.

APP ATL / Apportioned Trailer. This plate differs from the PRM plate below in that it still requires yearly validation and carries stickers. All these APP plates, by the way, are interesting in that they're Colorado's most prominent current plates without a separator of some kind between the number and letter sections of the serial. Previous plates using this style were deemed "hard to read" by law enforcement, in that it was sometimes difficult to distinguish the two parts. The state had no choice in this case, since the "APP" section needed to be added for clarity of purpose.

APP ATR / Apportioned Tractor. As you'd guess, this one is for a truck tractor that's intended to pull a trailer - most other states would call it an "Apportioned Power" plate or something similar. I don't have a picture of the sample for this one, because Colorado's plate info page doesn't show it (and in fact, has very little info at all about their Apportioned plates - even the link they provide to the state statutes doesn't explain anything). Which means that I'm not sure if it's still offered, actually. Jim Moini's aforementioned site has a picture of an older example.

APP PRM / Apportioned Permanent. This is a trailer plate, different from the ATL plate above in that the owner pays a pro-rated fee in advance for a set number of years. As I understand it, these plates are assumed to be valid if attached to a trailer, and do not require stickers. The advantage to this is that the owner of the trailer doesn't have to track it down to slap new stickers on it every year, since it might be halfway across the country or buried deep in a freight yard.

FLT / Fleet. These can appear on a wide variety of vehicles, but you'll see them most often on regular passenger cars and light trailers. Fleet plates are only allowed for use by companies registering ten or more vehicles together, such as rental agencies. When these plates first appeared, they tended to carry validation stickers; that seems to no longer be the case and they'll most often be unstickered now. I've noticed that some of the more interesting letter combos ("words" or triple letters, for instance) tend to appear on FLT plates for some reason - not sure if that's intentional or not.

GVW / GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight Rated) Truck. This is what you'd call the "standard" heavy truck plate in Colorado, being used by default on any vehicle weighing 16,000 pounds or more (or alternatively, a truck weighing 10,000 pounds or more that would exceed 16,000 pounds in combination with a trailer). Thus, pretty much any truck bigger than a pickup will have one of these on it. These can be personalized up to seven characters, which requires them to be produced as a flat plate.

TVW / GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight Rated) Tractor. Like the GVW plate above, but for semi-truck tractors. Not sure why the state still feels it needs to produce two kinds of plates that serve almost the same purpose - especially when GVW plates vastly outnumber their TVW brethren. These can be personalized up to seven characters as well.

Additionally, there's one more "red" plate that isn't a coded plate like the above types, but it fits with the general theme...

Livery. Livery plates were introduced this year for the purpose of making it perfectly clear whether or not a limousine or town car is owned by a PUC-registered firm. (Taxicab plates will be appearing next year for the same sort of purpose.) By dint of their specialty-style design, with the "Livery" text along the bottom, all of these plates are produced as flats. These can also be personalized up to seven characters - in fact, I'm curious to know whether the vanity versions outnumber the serialized versions since so many limo services used standard vanity plates (which were eligible for direct transfer) before this new issue arrived.

Part three (the final countdown!) of this series will explore Colorado's often-mysterious blue plates.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Colorado / Plate Decoder: Green Plates

Like most states, Colorado offers a standard plate (the "mountain range" issue) and a wide variety of extra-cost optional plates. But the ones most people tend to be mystified by are the ones with three-letter codes along the left edge. These codes all denote a specific type of registration - sometimes it's easy to figure out the abbreviations, but for those outside the state (or for plate collectors trying to understand what they're buying) it can be like deciphering runes.

These "code" plates come in three different colors depending on their intended use, with the green varieties being the most common. We'll explore those green plates here, and I'll give a few pointers for those who engage in the fun sport of plate-spotting.

CCL / Commercial Call Letter.These plates arrived at some point during the 1970s (the ALPCA Archives aren't entirely clear on when), as TV and radio stations began to request plates with specific call letters on them for their mobile broadcasting trucks. Colorado had previously issued add-on tags to licensed broadcasters with the call letters included, but these were intended for use along with a standard passenger or truck plate. My theory: At some point, the state decided it would be easier to just make regular-size plates with the stations' call numbers on them and save the cost of issuing the add-on plates as well. (Even so, the add-on plates didn't fully disappear until at least the late 1980s.) For plate-spotting purposes, find a TV or radio truck of any kind (they tend to be pretty visible) and you might see one - but not always. Stations do use regular passenger plates as well, so it's sometimes hit-or-miss. The serial number is usually the four call letters plus a serial number, such as "KKTV-11" or similar. Like all of Colorado's current personalized plates, these are only made in flat styles.

FTK / Farm Truck. In the old days, these used to be green and simply said "FARM" on them. After 2000, when Colorado redesigned all of their plates, they switched to a standardized graphic background and created this new abbreviation. FTK plates are available only for light trucks, and only to registrants who own a farm and can prove it via tax or business records. If you're plate-spotting...well, get out of the city! Then search for pickup trucks that look like they've put in some work. The eastern plains counties are a good place to start. These can be personalized up to seven characters, and will be flat if that's the case.

FTR / Farm Tractor. Similar to the lighter-duty FTK plates, but intended for heavy-duty truck-tractors (to pull semi trailers) or traditional agricultural tractors (to pull balers, spreaders, plows, tillers, sprayers, wagons, and everything else). These can also be personalized up to seven characters. Truck-tractors used on farms are required to carry one of these or a more common red TVW plate, but it's a voluntary option for ag tractors (with the usual safety triangle for slow-moving vehicles being sufficient for road use in most cases).

GVT / Government. Colorado's older government plate system was, while interesting for the latter-day collector, a mess in terms of categorization. Plates were split into three different types: State, County, or City. Theoretically, there were then differences in the serial numbers to denote what kind of vehicle was being registered (be they cars, trucks, or trailers). Come 2000, the state scrapped all that in favor of one simple "GVT" plate to be used by any government entity and vehicle regardless of size or type. (Older vehicles may still carry one of the 1990s-style gray plates, but they are rapidly disappearing as cities and counties upgrade their fleets to newer models.) GVT plates generally do not carry expiration stickers, at least in the larger counties and cities, but this may vary depending on your location. For plate-spotting, your best bet is to find a city or county police vehicle. These are the only vehicles pretty much guaranteed to carry GVT plates, as other types like service trucks or school buses may not always be government-owned and will sometimes carry standard passenger plates.

RTK / Recreational Truck. Starting in the 1970s, when usage of pickup trucks for more than just commercial purposes began to become more common, Colorado had the bright idea to register this growing number of non-commercial pickups in a separate class. They created a distinctive plate with "REC. TRUCK" designators and a bold gold-on-green color scheme, which made it easy to tell the "work" trucks from the "play" trucks. In practice, most pickups of any type still carried standard "TRUCK" plates on the off chance that they might be used for working purposes. When Colorado redesigned their plates for the new millennium, the "REC. TRUCK" notation was shortened to "RTK" and the distinctive colors disappeared. Finally, in 2005 or so, the state made the decision to remove "TRK" plates from general issuance - thus making RTK plates the only type specifically designated for non-commercial pickups. If you're plate-spotting, look for pickups and look closely. These can also be personalized up to seven characters, and will be made as flat plates if that's the case.

SCL / Social Call Letter. These would be known in most other states as amateur radio plates. Up until 2000, Colorado's amateur radio plates were effectively a special vanity plate, carrying nothing to distinguish them other than the probability of a crossed-out "0" (zero) character if the registrant's call letters included it. (Most of these plates will use that character, as Colorado is within zone "0" according to North American radio licensing rules.) Like a vanity plate, it is flat and allows up to seven characters, which safely covers all the possible combinations currently being issued by the FCC. If you're plate-spotting, look for vehicles carrying large antennae, and you might see one of these.

SMM / Special Mobile Machine. As Colorado defines it, these plates are for "a vehicle or equipment that is not designed primarily for the transportation of persons or cargo over the public highways" - in essence, for stuff like construction equipment. In plate form, this is a class that's beginning to decline somewhat, as the state has begun to issue SMM decals instead as of this year. (The decals are most commonly used when a piece of equipment has been attached to a standard vehicle like a pickup, thus allowing the pickup to be separately registered with a regular plate.) You'll most commonly find SMM plates on dedicated machinery like cranes, bulldozers or loaders.

SMX / Special Mobile Machine Exemption. This is a motorcycle-sized add-on plate for truly oddball machinery, the kind that doesn't lend itself to compliance with regular highway lighting requirements. These are not very common; to spot one in the wild you'd first have to find a vehicle with an SMM plate or sticker, then see if it's got one of these attached as well. I've never actually seen a real one myself!

TRK / Special-Use Truck. There's a long story here, just to warn you in advance. These used to be everywhere on the roads, being the standard plate issued to light trucks and cargo vans. But as the number of people buying pickup trucks for personal use increased dramatically during the 1990s and 2000s, the state decided to save some money in production costs by issuing regular passenger plates to trucks going forward. So, after 2005 or so, these TRK plates began to be relegated to what the state defines as "special-use" trucks. Any TRK plate you see on a regular pickup truck or cargo van is one that's been grandfathered in - when that vehicle is sold and registered to a new owner, it'll lose the TRK plate. Hence, these are rapidly disappearing from common usage. For plate-spotting purposes, this is the list of trucks allowed to carry these plates:
  • Concrete trucks (either pumpers or mixers)
  • Beverage trucks (only those with roll-up sides)
  • Trash trucks (either with a compactor or a winch for roll-off bins)
  • Recycling trucks (either collector or roll-off types)
  • Mobile veterinary trucks
  • Vehicles transporting race horses
  • Recovery trucks (tow trucks or wreckers)
  • Mobile medical trucks (blood bank or rolling clinic)
Good luck finding some of those - the "race horse transport truck" in particular doesn't seem like it would be a common sight on the roads. In any case, the plate will be the same type no matter what. My theory is that the state will continue to register the limited of number of qualifying vehicles this way until their remaining stock of TRK plates finally runs out.

TRL / Trailer. Colorado, unlike some states, requires every single trailer in the state (even the itty-bitty ones) to have a license plate. This particular type is more commonly found on light trailers, while larger semi-trailers more often carry apportioned-type plates. These can be personalized up to seven characters, and will be made as a flat plate if that's the case.

In the next installment, I'll explain the various types of "red" plates.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ohio / New Plate Watch: Redesigned standard-issue plate to be released in 2012

Ohio only recently introduced their current "Beautiful Ohio" base plate, and now Governor John Kasich has already initiated a new design to replace it starting sometime next year.

The new plate, which is decidedly less colorful than the current design, is nonetheless interesting for its background featuring numerous slogans about the state. The "hidden" messages include previously used plate slogans like "The Heart of it All", "Birthplace of Aviation" and the current "Beautiful Ohio". Beyond this semi-subliminal effect, the state BMV is also running a poll to find out what words in particular Ohioans (and, it appears, anyone else who feels like voting) think best represent the state. It's not clear whether motorists will be able to pick their own slogan, or whether this is just a gauge for possible specialty plate designs. In any case, vote early and often.

According to a report by the Dayton Daily News, Gov. Kasich mentioned that the new plate will comply with federal regulations that the current plate does not. Which poses the question: if there's something fundamentally wrong with the current "Beautiful" plate, what exactly is that flaw and why was it issued in the first place? You'll also note that the sample shown here appears to use a flat 3M font - if the new plates are flat rather than embossed, that lower-cost approach could also have been a motivating factor. (Under Kasich's reign, Ohio has been initiating a vast array of belt-tightening measures over the past year or so.)

The new plate was designed by Aaron Roberts, an art student from Bellefontaine (though the Daily News neglects to identify the campus he attends), and will be accompanied by a new driver's license design featuring the same theme. You'll start seeing them as 2013 expirations sometime late next year, once the state runs through the rest of the 450,000 remaining "Beautiful" blanks on hand.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Observations / Australia: Shining some light on Kiwalite

A year or so ago, in one of my semi-regular "shopping trips" around the various plate stores on the web, I took advantage of a big batch of Australian plates that Plate Depot was offering. (The site's run by a fellow ALPCAn who has lots of high-quality stuff - still including over 100 Aussie plates at last count.) I don't really collect stuff from outside North America at present, but the ability to complete a seven-continental-states-plus-ACT run in one purchase was intriguing, so I bit. They've been hanging on one of my walls in a colorful eight-plate stack for several months now, and I quite enjoy them.

However, I hadn't yet entered them into my collection checklist, so tonight while watching the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals duel it out in Game Six, I pulled them off the wall and noted their pertinent details. Of course, on the front of the plates is the serial number, but there's also some matrix-printed code on the back of the plates. Here's a photo of my Victoria issue as an example:

The code, although mostly inscrutable, does reveal a couple of important things. After the "LB" at the far left appears to be a date code in DD-MM-YY format, in this case meaning that the plate (or at least the non-embossed blank) was manufactured on February 4, 2003.

Then, at the far right edge is a notation instantly familiar to plate collectors everywhere: "3M".This undoubtedly refers to the manufacturer of the reflective sheeting, 3M Corporation. This is not surprising, as the company has been a powerhouse in the registration industry since at least the 1940s or 1950s.

But several plates carried a different mark, and indeed appeared to be constructed differently. Again, by way of example, here's my issue from Western Australia:

That word on the far right is "KIWA", and I initially had no idea what or who it referred to. Five minutes spent with Google taught me that the fine folks at Sakai Chemical also make plastic sheeting products under the "Kiwa" trade name, in this case known as Kiwalite. Based on my own observations, Kiwalite appears to be a much thinner covering than 3M's usual offerings (never mind that of Avery Dennison), and gives the graphics a very crisp appearance while maintaining good reflectivity under the shine of my reasonably bright flashlight.

In a broader sense, the uniform application of these printed codes also tells me that, much like the system used by Mexico, Australia apparently oversees all plate production on a national level while allowing each state or territory to set its own standards as far as design and numbering are concerned. Even the dies used appear to vary: the Victoria plate above uses what looks like Irwin-Hodson's Oregon set, while most other plates use the "standard" Australian variety. But since I only have one of each plate, and since I don't plan on getting more any time soon, I'm curious to know if Australia regularly switches out its manufacturing contracts nationally or if each state sets their own policies. Anyone out there have the answer?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Arizona / New Plate Watch: New FFA, Sun Devil, Masonic, Lumberjack Designs

Arizona, always among the leaders in specialty plate designs, has redesigned two popular issues and introduced two entirely new options since last year. All the following issues are produced as flat screened plates with the state's own distinctive font style, Arizona having switched almost fully to this technology in the past few years. As with all Arizona specialty plates, each new registration will donate $17 to the charity or non-profit group in question.

Arizona State University -- The new Sun Devil plate continues to boost ASU's scholarship fund and goes for a bolder gold background with red letters, though the classic mascot artwork remains intact. Serials are now expandable to a possible six digits according to this sample, although five-digit combos seem to remain the norm for now (current high as of this post: F2989, which means about 2200 examples of the new type). Old Sun Devil bases (stretching as far back as the late 1980s) remain valid if kept current, or owners can switch to the new design for a five-dollar replacement fee. Perfect for celebrating the school's alignment in the new Pac-12 conference, of course.

FFA / Agriculture -- This is a brand-new offering, benefiting the Arizona chapter of Future Farmers of America. I like the design in general, and it's a good cause. However, having seen it on the road recently, it's very hard to tell from a distance (unless you know your flat-plate fonts) that this is an Arizona issue because the "metal" name tag at the top is tough to make out. Arizona is generally very good at resolving any visibility problems with their plates, however, so that issue might yet be fixed. This has not proven an especially popular plate yet, having only stretched to 342 examples out there as of June.

Freemason -- Another new design, benefiting charities supported by the Grand Lodge of Arizona Masons. (Based on their charity website, this appears to include funding for domestic violence safe houses and aid to troops stationed overseas.) This is a clean, simple layout with good legibility -- and yet, not quite a popular one either, with only 162 examples known so far. (Side note: Colorado's own Masonic Temple Masonic Family plate was retired a few years ago due to low acceptance, so we'll see how this one fares.)

Northern Arizona University -- Like the ASU issue, this is a redesign of the old NAU Lumberjacks plate. Ironically, the Lumberjack mascot present on the old design has been removed in favor of just spelling out the nickname on the bottom. Perhaps NAU is trying to scale up its image or something? In any case, it's a well-designed plate, just not a very exciting one. This plate also appears capable of supporting six-digit serials, but five digits remains the norm and about 700 of the new plates have been issued so far.

Note: All sample plate images were obtained at Arizona MVD's website.

Georgia / New Plate Watch: Picking the New Peaches

Georgia's license plate design contest has wrapped up, with Governor Nathan Deal having chosen his state's next plate from the top three finalists selected by an online vote.

After over 400,000 votes and the governor's final pick, the winner is...well, this one!

I'll be honest - this was my least favorite of the governor's three choices, but I suppose it's not bad. I expect some of the details to change before actual production, and I'd be surprised if the graphic ends up being quite this detailed in practice. For instance, if they'd prefer that it be visible from a distance, the "Peach State" motto at the top probably needs to be rendered in a bolder color than blossom pink.

I've heard claims from some that the peaches look a bit like pumpkins...not sure if I totally agree with that assessment, but I can see where the resemblance might be possible.

I can also (pretty much) guarantee that Georgia is not moving to an eight-digit serial format - the state's growing all the time, but their current seven-digit serials aren't being used up quite that quickly. It remains to be seen if the state will eventually switch to flat plates, however. The "LABEL" space is reserved for Georgia's traditional use of county name stickers, or for an optional "IN GOD WE TRUST" label available at no cost for those wishing to profess their faith on a license plate.

The new plate is set to enter production by 2012, but the state has not defined an exact date - I would expect to see the new plates appear once stocks of the current boredom-inducing white plate have begun to run out.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

2011 Garage: Let's go to Wisconsin!

This is the inaugural installment of The Garage, in which I pretend that I must outfit my "virtual garage" full of vehicles with new license plates in a particular jurisdiction. We'll begin with Wisconsin.

So, let's pretend I'm moving to Milwaukee. I'll need new plates, right? And I've "got" a lot of stylish sedan, a luxury SUV, a heavy-duty pickup, a motorcycle, a motorhome, even a trailer and a low-speed vehicle. Plus all the classics I've got stashed away...

Let's see what's required!

300C and Grand Cherokee - Both these vehicles will need copies of Wisconsin's current passenger plate, the "America's Dairyland" issue with black letters. These are a flat $75 each for the full year, with personalization available up to seven characters for an extra $15 each.

Ram - Wisconsin is one of the several states that still see fit to delineate trucks by weight class. My Ram 3500 supports a GVWR of 10,100 pounds, which qualifies it for the distinctive "X" weight sticker on an otherwise standard light truck plate. Fees for truck plates are also dependent on weight - the 2011 truck fee scale indicates that the full year runs $155. Personalization up to seven digits, should you feel the need to throw more money at the state, is an extra $15 on top, but you'll lose the cool "X" sticker in the process.

Ranger EV - The new trend toward LSV plates has hit Wisconsin as well, with the Dairyland choosing a distinctive baby blue shade for their version. Wisconsin uses a biennial registration for LSVs and mopeds, which (if I were registering this month) would require me to pay a prorated fee of $8.63 for the remainder of the current term (through April 2012), plus the full $23 fee for the next two years, for a total of $31.63.

(Full disclosure: Wisconsin and most other states require that the low-speed vehicle in question be specifically denoted by NHTSA as meeting their set of LSV standards to qualify for a plate; I don't believe the Ranger EV actually does meet those standards, but I like the looks of it better than most of the "real" LSV designs out there. So sue me...or just don't register my vehicle, I guess. Polaris also owns the rights to the GEM and Breeze, each of which "counts" as a true LSV...but they're also boring, to be brutally honest.)

Hammer - Unless you qualify for Veteran plates, Wisconsin offers one of the most boring moto plates out there. Straight-up black-on-white, no frills. Blah. So there you go. Like the LSV plate above, moto plates are charged biennially and prorated, making this another $31.63. However, moto plates can also be personalized up to five characters for an extra $30 (same rate as other plates, but covering two years' worth).

Trip - This big-boy motorhome (though nowhere near the biggest available by any means) is also charged by its rated GVWR, which in this case is a thumping 29,000 pounds - that qualifies it for an "H" (32k max) weight class sticker. It also exceeds the 28k max on Wisconsin's RV fee scale, which means you're looking at a full $119.50 for the year....however, the state also offers a quarterly rate that can save you some money. So if you only need to have the motorhome legally ready during the summer months, that's two quarters at $29.88 each, for a total of $59.76. After which you can store the beast again in September and not worry about any new fees until the following April. As usual, personalization up to seven characters (with removal of the weight class sticker) is optional for $15 annually, regardless of which registration plan you choose.

Featherlite - Wisconsin also runs a weight-based fee scale for trailers, which means it comes down to the rated GVWR again. Let's say my Feather is the full 26-footer, rated at 14,000 pounds GVWR (weight class "D", up to 16k). That boils down to $104.50 for the year. As with motorhomes, quarterly registration is also an option - however, it's an extra $5 per quarter for that convenience. Still, if you only need the trailer for six months, that's a much cheaper $62.26. (Light trailers, those under 3,000 pounds gross, do not even require registration - the state offers an "optional" plate for $37.50 per year.)

Daytona, Dart - Wisconsin has interesting rules regarding classic vehicles. Firstly, you can't register a vehicle for any collector-type plate without first having some other vehicle registered under a standard plate. (The idea here is to avoid people using "collector" vehicles as daily transportation, and to make sure they're paying some form of annual fee for road use.) Second, you are only issued one "collector number" for all of your vehicles that qualify - every collector vehicle after the first gets the same number, but with an alpha suffix. Third, the vehicle in question must be entirely stock, to the point of having to send photos of the entire car to the DOT for approval - any extreme modifications would mean the car gets a "Hobbyist" plate instead. Besides all this, there's even a choice in plate design - if you don't like the old-school red-on-blue variety, a modern graphic version is also offered. Cost for the first collector car is a one-time charge of twice the applicable yearly plate fee, plus $50. The second and subsequent vehicles cost the same double-regular fee, but the $50 fee is waived. For the Daytona and the Dart, that's $200 plus $150 - $350 total, which is not bad at all for lifetime registration. But that's still pricey compared to...

1936 Wisconsin - photo from PlateShack
'36 Dodge - Anything older than model year 1945 and in stock, unmodified condition qualifies for Antique plates. These are a flat $5 one-time fee. Yes, that's all! I think the idea here is that no one in their right mind would use a vehicle this old for daily transportation (though that hasn't stopped some people from doing just that). Besides cost, the other benefit of Antique plates is the ability to use year-of-manufacture plates - 1936 in this case. (Oddly, the state also makes the point that Antique/Collector/Hobbyist registrations are invalid during the month of January, but does not go into any detail as to why this might be the case.)

Total cost for all this fun, assuming the full yearly rate is applied and no personalization options are selected, works out to a grand total of $947.26. We'll compare this rate to other states as I "move" my Garage to other locations over the next few months.

Except where otherwise noted, all sample plate images are from the Wisconsin DOT website.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Colorado / New Plate Watch: Full approval of Taxi, WW2, Nuggets, Avalanche, Girl Scouts, JDRF, and Craig Hospital plates

It has been a long summer with few updates from me; for that I apologize. However, it means that I can do only one thing to make it up to all (okay, any) of my readers: it's a new plate extravaganza!

By the close of the 2010-2011 legislative session, Colorado lawmakers approved a number of measures that will result in new license plate choices/requirements by next January.

  • Following the successful implementation of Livery plates for limousines and luxury hire cars, the Colorado legislature has passed a similar measure to create unique plates for taxis. These are set to feature a yellow color scheme, and will probably be similar to the Livery plates in layout and (flat) construction. There's no word yet on whether personalization will be allowed for the Taxi issue.
  • Tangent alert: It is interesting to note that, for the last year or so, Colorado has been separately counting registrations for buses, motorhomes and various types of trailers. The new Livery and Taxi plates could also be viewed as a small-scale test of how the state might register unique vehicle groups. Is this all a prelude to providing such trailers and buses with unique plates of their own in the future? Watch this space.
  • A long-empty segment of Colorado's burgeoning selection of plates for military veterans will finally be filled, as a new plate to honor veterans of World War II has been approved. More specifically, anyone who can prove service in the United States Armed Services between September 16, 1940 and July 25, 1947 will be able to apply for the new plate. It's hard to guess on what the design might look like, but I'd expect to see something like the current Vietnam Veteran issue.
  • Following the pattern of the popular "Broncos Country" plate, Kroenke Sports and Entertainment have successfully lobbied for approval of new "Nuggets Nation" and "Avalanche Territory" issues to benefit Kroenke Sports Charities. (KSE owns both the Avalanche and the Nuggets, and KSC is the charity wing of the ownership group.) As a casual Avs fan and a pretty big Nuggets fan, I must say with total and complete bias that these are a good-looking set of plates and a nice complement to the existing Broncos choice. Now if only we could get those long-awaited Colorado Rockies plates (Purple Row, where are you on this?), and maybe something to commemorate the MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids.
  • As previously reported here, Girl Scouts of Colorado was in the process of working towards getting a license plate on Colorado roads before the group's upcoming 100th anniversary celebration in 2012. That mission was successful, and the plate should appear on the roads just in time for the festivities to start.
  • Other organizations receiving new plates for fundraising purposes are the Rocky Mountain chapter of JDRF, and local non-profit Craig Hospital. JDRF's plate profits will work towards diabetes research, while proceeds from the Craig plate will be directed to a patient assistance fund.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Colorado / Capitol Watch Update: Taxi plates likely on the way

Photo from Hydroponics Online
April 6 Update: This bill has passed through committee hearings and is now on the floor of the Senate, awaiting readings and a vote.

Following this year's launch of a new Livery plate for limousines, Colorado HB11-1234 looks set to create a new license plate for taxi cabs. At present, the bill has passed the House and is working through committee review in the Senate. If approved, the plates would begin reaching Colorado roads by January of 2012.

The bill specifies that the plate will consist of black letters on a yellow background, with the word "TAXICAB" along the bottom. (It will be interesting to see how the DMV decides to interpret the use of yellow as a color scheme, given the monochromatic design of the new Livery plate.)

The bill as currently written also makes the point that, unless the operator is licensed by the PUC strictly as a limousine service, vehicles serving as both luxury limousines and taxis (I'm guessing this applies to things like Town Car service) will default to the new Taxicab plate.

As you can see by the photo above, this isn't the first time that Taxi plates have appeared in Colorado - however, there's never been a statewide issue. Denver issued plates to taxis for many years as a supplement to standard passenger plates.

Colorado / Capitol Watch: Craig Hospital plate stalls in House

Mock-up image found via Jared King's blog.
A bill proposing the creation of a license plate for the non-profit Craig Hospital in Englewood appears to have hit a stumbling block. SB11-003, sponsored by Senator Nancy Spence (R-Centennial), passed on the Senate floor but has recently been indefinitely postponed by the House Appropriations Committee.

As currently proposed, the plate would be offered for the usual $50 worth of fees to the DMV plus a required one-time $20 donation to Craig Hospital. There has been some contention in committee hearings that, with such a small donation requirement, the plate's primary purpose may end up being more in the way of marketing than fundraising. Indeed, committee testimony from Craig's representative admits that the plate would be one of many fundraisers already undertaken by the hospital, and that all funds raised by the plate would go into their Patient Assistance Fund.

Craig Hospital is a non-profit organization devoted exclusively to the care and rehabilitation of patients with spinal cord and brain injuries, and has been active in this field since 1955 after previously serving (from as early as 1907) as a care center for tuberculosis patients.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Colorado / Capitol Watch Update: New specialty plate numbers would benefit disability assistance programs

Photo from
April 4 Update: This bill has moved to the full Senate for approval and, possibly, final passage. Stay tuned!

A bill proposing an innovative and interesting effort to benefit disability assistance programs has passed the Colorado House and is now on its way through a committee review in the Senate.

HB11-1216, titled the "Laura Hershey Disability-Benefit Support Act" in honor of the late disability rights activist, would set up a new seven-member state committee to allocate funds to non-profit groups for the purpose of benefiting people with disabilities.

And where would the funds come from? The bill also intends to create a new license plate number auction system dealing in "desirable" numbers. The committee would "study the market" and determine which numbers might be the most valuable, then submit an inquiry to the Division of Motor Vehicles as to whether these numbers would be valid for use with the current registration system. Pending approval by the DMV, the new crop of "desirable" numbers would be auctioned on a specific web site to the highest bidder. The state would receive a 25-percent royalty on the final sale price, with the remainder going to the disability fund.

The yearly proceeds would then be split as follows:
  • First, any amount up to $1.5 million to the new disability assistance fund
  • Second, any additional funds up to $2.5 million to Colorado's General Fund
  • Third, any remaining funds to the disability assistance fund
These amounts will be adjusted annually by the State Treasurer to account for inflation as well.

Interestingly, the bill as currently written allows for the use of "privately obtained replica plates" to be used, so long as they meet the standards of the department. I'm not sure what exactly that entails; there are a number of companies that sell "replica" versions of old plates, none of which are specifically regarded as "legal" by the state. I think the idea is that the number is the important thing - so long as the validation stickers are current and the number matches the car it's supposed to be attached to, everything is kosher. (And if that's the precedent we're about to set, I think the market for old Colorado license plates is about to become very interesting.)

Assuming the bill passes, this sounds like a very positive and useful development. My only question is, what numbers would count as desirable? I have some suggestions, of course.

More analysis after the jump...

Colorado / Capitol Watch Update: Girl Scouts plate moves to the Senate floor

Image by Girl Scouts Colorado
April 5 Update: The Girl Scouts plate has now moved to the Senate floor, having passed its initial committee hearings in both Transportation and Appropriations. Good work!

We've been following the progress of Colorado's proposed Girl Scouts license plate (Colorado SB11-197) for some time now, and the news just keeps getting better.

Five Girl Scouts testified in front of the Senate Transportation Committee on March 22, relating their positive experiences in Scouting and their support for the proposed plate. And hey, there's even video...

With five testimonials, 3,102 petitioned signatures and a solid design proposal, SB11-197 passed through the Senate Transportation Committee with no amendments. Next stop: Senate Appropriations. Congrats, girls!

Some data and the video for this post came from Girl Scouts Colorado.

Colorado / Capitol Watch: World War II Veteran plate bill very near passage by House

A gaping hole in Colorado's license plate offerings for veterans may soon be filled.

SB11-037, sponsored by Senator Rollie Heath (D-Boulder), would create a license plate for veterans who can provide proof of enlistment in the United States Armed Services at any point between September 16, 1940 and July 25, 1947. At present, the bill has passed the Senate and is awaiting final approval by the House.

An amendment has been added since the bill's origination to ensure that these plates are offered at no charge for the first set (as with most such military plates in Colorado, the standard registration fees would most likely apply to any additional sets ordered by the applicant).

Like many other states, Colorado has for many years offered a plate to commemorate surviving veterans of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but has not yet offered a plate for the vast majority of WW2 veterans.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Colorado / Capitol Watch: Diabetes license plate passes House, introduced in Senate

There has been a recent effort toward getting a Colorado license plate supporting type 1 diabetes research through the state legislature, and so far the effort appears to be succeeding. The bill, HB11-1166, has passed through the House and is now on its way to a committee review by the Senate.

At present, I am unable to find any sort of mock-up or prototype of the proposed plate; the bill as currently worded only requires that "the design of the plates must indicate that the owner of the motor vehicle [...] supports research to cure juvenile diabetes." Part of the vagueness may stem from the fact that the bill appears to be split on which term it would rather use for the cause it supports. "Type 1 diabetes" has become the accepted clinical term, while "juvenile diabetes" is the older term still in common usage (notably by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which supports the plate effort).

There is also no indication that this plate will raise any specific amount of money for diabetes research - the only fees mentioned in the bill are the two standard $25 charges for the cost to make the plate, both of which go to the State of Colorado. This is usually remedied by requiring a donation in order to receive an "approval certificate", but that isn't mentioned here.

More updates forthcoming - stay tuned.

Research / Weekly High Number Report

Numbers gleaned from the fine folks at Join their spotters list!

I'm a little late this week with the highs, but here you are anyway. There are ten states and two provinces showing new highs (several highs from last week are still listed on LPcc as new, but have not been included here).

United States:
  • District of Columbia: DS 7100
  • Florida: 462 PBF (county name series)
  • Illinois: N37 0429
  • Iowa: 293 YFO
  • Kentucky: 876 LZH
  • Maine: 2466 SL
  • New York: FLJ-2359
  • Pennsylvania: HTE-7250
  • South Carolina: HBK 801
  • Texas: CP7-J280
Okay, so Iowa is not progressing quite as rapidly toward its new serial format as I had originally thought. At least not this week, anyway. Florida's current county name series, which is intended to run from MAA through RZZ, appears to be about half-exhausted.

  • British Columbia: 502 TKL
  • New Brunswick: HEY 031
New Brunswick jumps way up into the Hxx series, after having reported numerous highs through January in the GZx range. Then again, having seen no new NB highs throughout February or the beginning of March, this is perhaps not surprising.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Delaware / The Delaware 3000 opens a new Marketplace for active tags

Image by Jordan Irazabal / I claim no copyright.
First of all, if you're not familiar with The Delaware 3000, I would urge you to become familiar with it.

It doesn't matter whether you're from Delaware or not - what Jordan Irazabal and a vast squadron of sharp-eyed plate spotters have put together there is nothing short of incredible in scope and detail.

You see, Delaware issues license plates in number-only form, and Irazabal has made it his mission to find all of Delaware's lowest tags - those at 1000 or lower. (It's effectively the opposite of places like, which aims to find the highest numbers.) The lowest numbers are as old as the state's vehicle licensing system, which dates to 1911. These numbers can be transferred from one person to another for a modest fee, and inactive low numbers are often auctioned by the state for whatever the market will bear.

With this in mind, low numbers have become pretty valuable in Delaware - to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. And Irazabal, shrewdly in my opinion, has decided to get in on that side of our hobby as well with a new "Marketplace" page. Acting as a broker for interested parties on either the buying or selling side, he currently has 30 sets of desirable active tags listed as available.

He is uniquely positioned to perform this duty, having already done the research on which numbers are desirable and having created the perfect forum in which to view them. Set prices range from as low $750 (for a low five-digit tag, "14357") to as high as $199,000 (for "121"), though some are listed only as "make offer" so it could be as high as you feel is necessary.

That high, of course, was reached a few years back at one of the aforementioned state auctions when one man spent $675,000 in a quest to get "6" - and he said he was prepared to drop $1 million if necessary.

Colorado / Capitol Watch: Specialty plate time extension passes both houses, awaits signatures

Looks like several specialty license plates that were in danger of being discontinued may get a reprieve. Colorado HB11-1236, which has passed both houses and is awaiting signatures, proposes to extend the minimum requirement cutoff for many specialty plates to July of 2016. The plates affected are:

  • Support Education
  • Kids 1st
  • Italian American
  • Support the Horse
  • Advancing Clean Energy (Project C)
  • Saving Lives Through Education (Alive at 25)
  • Ski Country USA
  • Be an Organ and Tissue Donor (Donate Life)
  • Visit Your State Parks
  • Adopt a Shelter Pet

In short, all these plates must still meet the minimum issuance requirement of 3,000 plates to remain available if the bill passes - but some that might have been discontinued this year or next year due to low issuance will now be given a lot more time to reach that number. (It's worth noting that Ski Country has already reached that level, and Shelter Pet is on track to do so by the middle of this year, let alone its original cutoff of July 2014.)

Alumni plates are also included in this bill. Their minimum issuance requirement remains at 500, but they too will be extended to July of 2016 upon passage.

Interestingly, the Boy Scouts of America plate, which was originally intended to be a limited release for just two years, would also be extended to 2016. However, the bill (as far as I can tell) makes no provision for the plate remaining available any longer than that even if it reaches the 3,000-issue threshold. Curious...

As originally written, the bill also sought to repeal the minimum numerical requirement entirely, but this was amended out of the final product before it reached the Senate.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Colorado / Update: Girl Scouts push for 100th Anniversary license plate in 2012

March 21, 2011 Update: I have been informed that the proposed Girl Scouts plate will be a topic of discussion at tomorrow's meeting of the Colorado Senate Transportation Committee, held at 1:30 PM at the State Capitol in Denver. Girl Scouts will be on hand at the meeting to testify in favor of the plate and about their experiences in Scouting.

So, the bad news here is that "Cookiepalooza" (officially known as the Girl Scout Cookie Activity) has ended as of March 13. Which means no more Thin Mints for me...bummer.

The good news, at least for license plate fans, is that Girl Scouts of Colorado has begun the process of getting a specialty plate of their own on the road for their upcoming 100th anniversary in 2012. This is a natural step after the release of the Boy Scouts' anniversary plate last year (currently at 653 copies issued through January), and one would expect it to be issued for a similar two-year span if it is ultimately approved by the Legislature.

When and if more details or, hopefully, a mock-up of the design appear, I'll be sure to let you know.

Full press release after the jump.

March Madness Plates: East Region

So, how many colleges and universities represented in the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament are also represented by license plates?

I was curious, so I've endeavored to find out. Generally, I'm looking for a plate from the state in which the school is actually located, though I know some states have alumni plates for schools that are nowhere nearby.

We'll start tonight with the 16 teams seeded to the East Region.

Ohio State University - Ohio BMV offers a plate on the new "Beautiful Ohio" base for the Buckeye faithful. And for making the Sweet Sixteen, THE Ohio State University has earned a photo of said plate. (According to the OSU Alumni Association, plates are also available in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.)

University of Texas at San Antonio - The Roadrunners got blown out by the aforementioned Buckeyes, but at least Texas DMV partner MyPlates offers a very nice UTSA license plate as a consolation prize. Like all MyPlates designs, it's only available as a vanity plate.

George Mason University - The Buckeyes continued their reign of terror by beating up on Mason's Patriots this evening, but this shouldn't dissuade their fans from picking up Virginia DMV's official GMU license plate. (Honestly, it's rather plain, but with so many plates in the state of Virginia, a lot of the optional issues are.)

Villanova University - GMU was at least able to knock off the weakened 'Nova Wildcats, but this was very much an anticlimax compared to what Villanova did during the regular season. PennDOT doesn't mind, though - they'll gladly supply a license plate with a big V on it to soothe your wounds.

West Virginia University - Pride of the Appalachians they may be, but the Mountaineers eventually fell to arch-rival Kentucky. WV DOT shows no sign of removing the Mountaineers plate from their rolls, however (scroll down a ways on their "Special License Plates" page to see a grainy photo of it).

Clemson University - The Tigers kept it close against WVU, yet succumbed regardless. Clemson fans in South Carolina will keep the dream alive year-round, however, with this rather attractive plate from SC DMV (again, scroll down to see it in alphabetical order).

University of Kentucky - Kentucky's Wildcats knocked off both Princeton and West Virginia, and will battle the vaunted OSU Buckeyes soon in the Sweet Sixteen round. Show your pride with the Big Blue plate from Kentucky MVL.

Princeton University - Princeton won the Ivy League's automatic bid to the Tournament (as did the women's team), but were sent home early by a strong Kentucky Wildcats squad. Sadly, it does not appear that New Jersey MVC offers any plate yet for Princeton fans or alumni.

Xavier University - Marquette and Xavier, two Midwestern Catholic powerhouses, slugged it out in the second round - and Marquette came out on top. Ohio BMV still has a "Beautiful Ohio" plate for Musketeer fans, though.

Marquette University - Along with their conquest of Xavier, the Golden Eagles punched Syracuse's ticket home, and will give their all against North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen. Milwaukee, go nuts and get yourself an MU plate from Wisconsin DOT.

Syracuse University - They had a very strong regular season, and managed to put down Indiana State in the second round, but Marquette proved to be too much for the Orange in the third round. Oh, well. Have another glass of juice and order yourself the appropriate plate from New York State DMV. (Scroll down, it's there. Trust me.)

Indiana State University - ISU went down at the hands of Syracuse, but give it up to the Sycamores for putting up a good fight. And give a little back with the plate to match from Indiana BMV.

University of Washington - In an all-canine battle, the Huskies beat up the Bulldogs in the second round. Then they got well and truly stuck by the Tar Heels in round three. Washington State DL offers a nice-looking UW license plate, though (scroll down a bit), so just wait until next season rolls around and maybe things will get better.

University of Georgia - Yes, UGA got smacked down by the Huskies. But we all know that basketball isn't really the Bulldogs' sport, anyway, right? Get yourself an UGA plate from Georgia DOR and hold out until September. (That link is weird - you'll probably have to scroll down, then click on the link to view the plate.)

University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) - The regular season was torture for the Tar Heels, so getting a relative break in the second round against Long Island was helpful. Now, after a tough battle against the Washington Huskies, UNC will face off against Marquette in the Sweet Sixteen. With as much effort as the Heels have put forth on the basketball court for so many years, it's really too bad that NC DMV can't offer anything better than a modified version of their aged "First in Flight" plate to honor them.

Long Island University - Getting into the tournament was enough of a struggle, and then they were forced to take on powerhouse North Carolina in the second round. As if that weren't enough, New York State DMV doesn't even offer an LIU plate for the Blackbird backers. What do you have to do to get some respect?

Tomorrow, we'll take a look at the West Region.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Opinion: So, why no Colorado Rockies plate?

I know, I know. The Colorado State Legislature has many other things to do right now that are more important than creating yet another specialty license plate.


Why don't we have a Colorado Rockies license plate?

The Broncos have a plate - and a very nice one, I might add. So how hard would it be for one (or both) of the two Rockies charity organizations - the Colorado Rockies Baseball Club Foundation and the Colorado Rockies Charity Fund - to do some lobbying and give their fans the choice of a license plate for the Purple Faithful?

Better yet, why aren't the fans doing it?

I'll make this pledge - as a Rockies fan myself, I'll gladly do everything I can on this forum of mine to help the process along if someone is willing to get the ball rolling. (My regular work schedule during the week doesn't generally lend itself to being able to make phone calls to legislators or the DMV.)

So, who's up for it? Think we can have a bill under consideration - or better yet, passed - by the time Rocktober 2011 rolls around?

Colorado / New Plate Watch: SMM DMO (special mobile machinery dealer demo)

Type: Other. Registrant must "provide sufficient proof that he/she sells special mobile machinery in the ordinary course of business." The plate is to be displayed on special mobile equipment being demonstrated for the purpose of a sale. (Why this is strictly necessary is beyond me, but whatever.)

Required minimum: None (that I know of, anyway).

Cost: Unknown. Probably the same as a regular dealer demo (DMO) plate.

Total issued through February 28: 1. Yeah, that's 1 as in singular. Not sure why there was a pressing need for this plate - guess we'll find out during the year.

Colorado / New Plate Watch: Veteran of the Afghanistan War

Type: Military. Registrant must be a naturalized citizen and a member of the United States Armed Services any time from October 7, 2001 to "the end of the conflict" (since it has not exactly "ended" as of yet). Plate can be issued to cars, motorcycles (and boy, are those serial numbers small!), RVs/motorhomes, or light trucks.

Required minimum: None.

Cost: $50 plus appropriate taxes and any other fees. Personalization is not possible.

Total issued through February 28: 35, for an average of about 18 per month. Much less than the Iraq plate, obviously, but then there haven't been as many troops sent to Afghanistan, either.

Colorado / New Plate Watch: Go Mountain Lions (UCCS)

Type: Alumni. Available to private owners of any passenger car, RV/motorhome, or light truck. (Not available for motorcycles.)

Required minimum: 600 plates issued by January 2013.

Cost: $50 plus appropriate taxes and any other fees. Registrant must also donate $50 to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Alumni Association to receive an authorization certificate. Note that alumni status is NOT required to obtain the plate - just the donation. Personalization is also possible for an extra $60.

Total issued through February 28: 41. That's a slim average of just about 21 per month, and there's a lot of UCCS grads and parents out there. However, it's enough to exceed the minimum requirement by a fair amount if it stays constant over the next three years.